Every organisation will be affected in different ways by Brexit depending on their sector and specific circumstances, and Human Resources/Learning & Development have a key role to play in ensuring that employees are kept informed and reassured during this time of change and transition.
1. Present an unambiguous message from the top of the organisation.
This could come from the CEO or the HR function. There must be clear intent to address employee worries and concerns. It is important that this message re-focuses staff on the business, because during times of uncertainty we tend to focus on our own individual problems, which can cause conflict. For some staff, Brexit can have potentially positive outcomes - for example, some may see it as improving the organisation's competitive position, meaning more work and better job security. UK citizens working in the EU and EU nationals working in the UK - people who may be directly affected by Brexit - will need reassurance and support.
2. Make sure you have a strong communication strategy.
At this time, communication is key to building trust. It must be a blended communication approach encompassing:
- A message from the CEO (which should emphasise the fact that 'we are all in this together')
- Discussion groups
- Employee forums
- 'Town Hall' meetings
3. Make use of social media.
Social media has a strong part to play in the two-way communication process. A video message from the CEO shown across all social media platforms ensures that all employees globally receive the same message. Many organisations employ staff whose first language is not English, and a video allows these people to assimilate the message at their own pace and in their own time. Most organisations have their own equivalent of Facebook for employees, which is great for creating communities and allows staff to post comments and pose questions that are important to them. This allows for open communication at all levels of the organisation. It is important that this is monitored by HR to maintain understanding of employee needs and concerns. Another advantage of using a video is that millennials prefer videos that allow staff to listen to the tone of voice and also to see the speaker's face.
4. Reaffirm the values that are at the core of your organisation.
Many of the organisations we work with have 'integrity' and 'respect for others' as their core business values. Now is the time to keep staff on track - changes are happening, but you are still the same organisation and your values remain the same. Make sure that employees keep the connection and bring them together using the organisation's values as the thread that holds everyone together.
5. Equip line managers with the skills required to manage change.
Brexit means that line managers will have to maximise talent to help build a sustainable business. Some of the key areas that they will need to address are:
- Inclusion & Diversity - Brexit has, in some instances, widened the cracks in society, emphasising our differences in a negative way. Now is the time to invest in Equality & Diversity training; help staff to celebrate our differences, be aware of unconscious bias, and work together to create a work environment where everyone thrives and feels included.
- Staff Engagement - Managers need some specific skills to engage staff during these challenging times. Donald Trump's rallying cry is 'Putting America First!' During Brexit, some staff will feel threatened, and we don't always think rationally when our emotional brain kicks in. We start to think more about ourselves and less about others, which can impact on collaborative relationships at work. If we do not work well together, this ultimately impacts on team cohesion and productivity. Managers will have to work a lot harder to get a positive response from their staff.
- Skills Development - As a HR/L&D professional, I recommend that you create your Brexit toolkit using all the hints and tips discussed above. We have found that this sets the foundations for the future and also alleviates stress, helping the organisation to get ahead of the issue.